For decades, space heating and cooling has accounted for more than half of all residential energy consumption across the U.S. — until now. Data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration’s (EIA) Residential Energy Consumption Survey (RECS) revealed that 48 percent of energy consumption in U.S. homes in 2009 was attributed to heating and cooling, down from 59 percent in 1993.
Research attributes the information, collected in 2010 and 2011 and released in 2011 and 2012, to an increased adoption of more efficient equipment, better insulation, more efficient windows, and population shifts to warmer climates. The shift in how energy is consumed in homes has occurred even as per-household energy consumption has steadily declined, according to the RECS.
While energy used for space conditioning has declined, energy consumption for appliances and electronics continues to rise, revealed the data. Although some appliances that are subject to federal efficiency standards, such as refrigerators and clothes washers, have become more efficient, the increased number of devices that consume energy in homes has offset these efficiency gains, said the survey.
Nonweather-related energy use for appliances, electronics, water heating, and lighting now accounts for 52 percent of total consumption, up from 42 percent in 1993. The majority of devices in the fastest-growing category of residential end uses are powered by electricity, increasing the total amount of primary energy needed to meet residential electricity demand, said the RECS. According to the EIA’s Today in Energy (March 6, 2013), increased electricity use has a disproportionate effect on the amount of total primary energy required to support site-level energy use.
Other notable trends the survey noted regarding household energy consumption include:
• The average U.S. household consumed 11,320 kWh of electricity in 2009, of which the largest portion, 7,526 kWh, represented appliances, electronics, lighting, and miscellaneous uses.
• On average, residents living in homes constructed in the 1980s consumed 77 million Btu of total energy at home. By comparison, those living in homes built from 2000 to 2009 consumed 92 million Btu per household, which is 19 percent more.
• Space heating accounted for 63 percent of natural gas consumed in U.S. homes in 2009; the remaining 37 percent was for water heating, cooking, and miscellaneous uses.
Publication date: 4/15/2013